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Bonding with your brandy
There's nothing like sipping fine wine among the vineyards that created it, collecting your watch from the manufacturer in Switzerland where it was assembled or seeing your luxury car roll off the assembly line. It sure beats a store, however swank and well-appointed it may be Customised experiences like these are being rolled out for India's growing luxury clientele as manufacturers realise that introducing customers to a brand's point of origin is an important value-addition to the sales experience. Louis XIII de Remy Martin, for instance, is offering customised tours to its ancient cellars to Cognac, France. A company spokesperson declined to give names of Indians who have visited the cellars but said they included well-known industrialists and high net worth individuals (HNI). Considering that a single pour of 30 ml from a bottle of Louis XIII Rare Cask costs Rs 1, 25, 000, high net worth is a given. Christophe Bourrie, regional director, Louis XIII, says they have had requests from customers who are travelling in Europe and are keen to visit the cellars. "We provide a customised trip to Cognac which fits in with their schedule. All effort is made to make the customer feel special. For instance, customers who love Baccarat decanters are taken to the crystal factory. In fact, for one of our customers, we had Pierrette Trichet, our cellar master, present to explain the magic of blending 1, 200 eaux-de-vie aged between 40 to 100 years. The customer was even allowed to open one of the bottles she was working on, " says Bourrie.
Brand ambassadors and consultants say that these trips work better in introducing a brand to a customer and personalising it than a visit to a showroom.
"The customer is the best ambassador and he/she needs to see the detail that goes into the production process, " says Emmanuel Balayer, a Mumbai-based luxury consultant. "Rolls Royce invites its consumers to London to see the car being assembled and meet the people who are building your car so that you know it is handmade and not the work of a robot, " says Balayer.
BMW has made visits a part of its brand strategy. Customers can visit their Munich plant to collect the car as well as visit the BMW museum to check out the 120 original exhibits covering 90 years of BMW history laid out on a virtual roadway.
Visitors can also tour the company's main plant in Munich where BMW produces the 3 Series sedan and wagon as well as the bulk of its engines. "When we realised how unique this is (headquarter, plant and museum are close together in Munich) - we decided to share the experience with customers, " says Andreas Schaaf, India president, BMW.
United Spirits Limited (USL) has also taken consumers to its Dalmore and Jura distilleries in Scotland. The experiential tours usually last between 4-5 days, include a few nights stay at the location, a visit to the point of origin, and personalised appreciation programmes by their master blenders coupled with local cuisine.
Vincent Cleme, brand ambassador for Louis XIII, sub-continent, says that since the product is a family business, the craftsmanship story is very important, and it is critical that the consumer participates in the intimate experience and understands why the product is valuable.
Chateau Palmer, which boasts of one of the best Bordeaux wines in the world, also welcomes its Indian customers to Bordeaux but only on invitation. "We receive wine lovers by appointment only, and it is limited to groups of 10 people. It involves a tour of the vineyard, followed by a visit to the vat room and the barrel cellars. This technical visit is an opportunity to explain our philosophy of wine making, " says Bernanrd de Laage, director for development, Chateau Palmer.
He adds that India is an important market because many Indians do their wine-shopping abroad.
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